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Facebook fake-news writer: "I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me"

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"Paul Horner, the 38-year-old impresario of a Facebook fake-news empire, has made his living off viral news hoaxes for several years. He has twice convinced the Internet that he’s British graffiti artist Banksy; he also published the very viral, very fake news of a Yelp vs. “South Park” lawsuit last year.

But in recent months, Horner has found the fake-news ecosystem growing more crowded, more political and vastly more influential: In March, Donald Trump’s son Eric and his then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, even tweeted links to one of Horner’s faux-articles. His stories have also appeared as news on Google."

"In light of concerns that stories like Horner’s may have affected the presidential election, and in the wake of announcements that both Google and Facebook would take action against deceptive outlets, Intersect called Horner to discuss his perspective on fake news. This transcript has been edited for clarity, length and — ahem — bad language."

I'm pretty sure he was one of several factors:

1. Fake News

2. Voter Rights Act change consequences

3. FBI Anthony Weiner announcement 1 de-energized some Hillary voters

4. FBI Anthony Weiner announcement 2 energized some Trump voters

5. Wikileaks

6. Russian hackers

7. Failure of Hillary to campaign in Michigan and Wisconsin

A lot had to go wrong for Hillary to lose. 

"Facebook and Google recently announced that they’d no longer let fake-news sites use their advertising platforms. I know you basically make your living from those services. How worried are you about this?

This whole Google AdSense thing is pretty scary. And all this Facebook stuff. I make most of my money from AdSense — like, you wouldn’t believe how much money I make from it. Right now I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense. [my emphasis]

I know ways of getting hooked up under different names and sites. So probably if they cracked down, I would try different things. I have at least 10 sites right now. If they crack down on a couple, I’ll just use others. They could shut down advertising on all my sites, and I think I’d be okay. Plus, Facebook and AdSense make a lot of money from [advertising on fake news sites] for them to just get rid of it. They’d lose a lot of money. [my emphasis]

But if it did really go away, that would suck. I don’t know what I would do."

That's a lot of money to make from fake news. 

"Thinking about this less selfishly, though — it might be good if Facebook and Google took action, right? Because the effects you’re describing are pretty scary.

Yeah, I mean — a lot of the sites people are talking about, they’re just total BS sites. There’s no creativity or purpose behind them. I’m glad they’re getting rid of them. I don’t like getting lumped in with Huzlers. I like getting lumped in with the Onion. The stuff I do — I spend more time on it. There’s purpose and meaning behind it. I don’t just write fake news just to write it.

So, yeah, I see a lot of the sites they’re listing, and I’m like — good. There are so many horrible sites out there. I’m glad they’re getting rid of those sites.

I just hope they don’t get rid of mine, too."

"A Fake News Writer Says His Articles Helped Trump Win"

Earlier this week, you might have seen a list of fake and satirical news sites. The list, compiled by Melissa Zimdars, PhD, an assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College, is intended to make it easier to identify a fake news post on Facebook when you see one. 

Paul Horner, 38, is the creator of one of those sites, Horner's fake articles have included "Donald Trump Protester Speaks Out: 'I Was Paid $3,500 To Protest Trump’s Rally,'" "Obama Signs Executive Order Declaring Investigation Into Election Results; Revote Planned For Dec. 19th," and "Gay Wedding Mobile Vans Cashing In On The Legalization Of Gay Marriage."

Whether or not Horner and other fake news sites spread across Facebook influenced the election is a hot topic of debate. Mark Zuckerberg denies it, but says he will take steps to stop the spread of fake news. President Obama, meanwhile, says that yes, these articles — which, BuzzFeed reports, received more traffic than election coverage from 19 major news organizations combined — did affect the outcome of the election.

When you look at Horner's articles, many of which are attributed to a fake ABC News reporter, Jimmy Rustling (the name is likely a play on a popular meme), they could easily be misconstrued as being legitimate. The site's logo is similar to that of the real ABC News, and if you miss the telling ".co" at the end of the domain name, you could make the mistake that many — including Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, and his son, Eric Trump — have made. Both tweeted a link to Horner's fake protestor article

Despite saying that he believes he helped Trump win, Horner still doesn't seem to fully grasp what he has done and continues to do. He sees his posts as satirical works of art, with "purpose and meaning" behind them. That is how he distinguishes himself from other fake news writers, who he said lack both qualities. 

In other words, Horner will continue putting out fake articles, and that's fine, because he puts time into them? What Horner needs to understand is that he's not doing what The Onion and other clearly satirical sites are doing; he is using all means at his disposal, including deceptive ABC News credentials, to trick readers. His site isn't humorous; it's just misleading. And that's not okay.

Do you think he helped Trump win?

I wouldn't say Horner helped Trump win, exactly; more like he didn't hinder Trump winning... which is what he did with Clinton. And his justification that he's off the hook because it's the public's responsibility to fact-check is a bunch of malarkey, if for no other reason than how does the public know which fact-check sites are legit. "Buyer beware" should not be the standard when a person needs to know what's going on in the world.

Your opinon?

I think he helped Trump win by creating more doubt about Hillary. 

I agree with you that he bears responsibility for what he has done. 

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